Need a mattress for uni? This is the one I'd buy

Plus top tips on what to look for, and the key things you need to know

Eve Lighter mattress
(Image credit: Eve)

Heading off to uni in September? For some of you, amongst all the other back to school essentials, that means investing in your first mattress. There are a wide, wide range of options on the market, and it can be difficult to know where your money is best spent. A big part of my job is to review mattresses, so I can help you out there. 

I'm going to assume you don't want to spend a fortune. If money is no object, you can get some truly excellent mattresses, but the more luxurious options in our best UK mattress ranking will be out of reach and/or overkill for most students. You'll find more options in our best cheap mattress deals guide, but these are my top current recommendations:

Memory foam pick

Eve Lighter mattress| was from £299, now from £194 at Eve (save £105 or more)
Eve makes some of our very favourite mattresses, and its budget-friendly 'Lighter' models would be a great choice for a student. We were very impressed in our Eve Lighter mattress review. These are available as foam-only or, for a slightly higher price, hybrid versions, the latter adding a layer of springs to the design.View Deal

Pocket sprung pick

Silentnight Pocket 1200 Eco Comfort| was £369, now £296.65 at Mattressman (save £73)
Silentnight is a good brand to look at for competitively-priced pocket sprung options, and this clever mattress is zoned to deliver different levels of firmness where they're really needed. It's hypoallergenic and designed to promote airflow through the mattress, to help you sleep cooler. Be aware you will need to flip it at regular-ish intervals. For a sprung mattress, it comes at a very competitive price (Silentnight is a good brand to look at for great value sprung mattresses in general).View Deal

So what else do you need to know? Here are some buying tips I've picked up in my time testing mattresses.

Sales are super-common

A nice perk (or a further complication to get your head around, depending on how you look at it), is that mattress brands flipping love a sale, so you can take that sticker price with a large pinch of salt. If you're savvy, you shouldn't need to pay full price. However, that does mean you'll need to be on it in terms of buying, and not leave it until the last minute. 

Our cheap mattress deals guide is regularly updated with the best offers. If you've decided what you want, you'll also find links on that page to dedicated deals pages for specific brands. These include info on the kinds of discounts you can expect from each brand, to make it clearer whether the current price is actually a bargain or not. 

If a mattress is provided, definitely take a topper

If you're heading into halls or pre-furnished accommodation of any other kind, I'd strongly recommend purchasing a mattress protector or – even better – one of the best mattress toppers. Both will provide a barrier between you and whatever grubbiness lies beneath (you don't know what that mattress has been through), but the latter will also transform the feel of even the most uncomfortable old mattress into something that'll deliver a dreamy night's sleep. 

Practical considerations

There are a few more things to note in terms of comfort. Memory foam is a good choice if you're a restless sleeper, as it seems to promote a less wriggly, more restful sleep. However, I'd be slightly wary of very cheap memory foam models if you tend to sleep hot, as these can trap heat and make things even more sweaty, which isn't ideal for sleeping well. 

Similarly, while a soft mattress might sound dreamy, and even feel dreamy when you first lie on it, my experience is that after a couple of nights your body will start craving a bit more support. I'm not saying you need to pick something rock solid, but it's something to bear in mind. 

Finally, be wary of maneuverability if you know you're going to have to take this mattress into different rooms / flats / houses throughout your uni experience. Springs add weight but the floppiness of a memory foam mattress can be equally exasperating when it comes to moving a mattress around. And side handles are most definitely your friend. 

Ruth Hamilton
Ruth Hamilton

Ruth runs T3's Outdoors editor (think camping, hiking and adventure sports) as well as running the site's Wellness channel (covering sleep, relaxation, yoga and general wellbeing). Due to some unfortunate timing, she joined the T3 team just as COVID-19 'joined' the UK, which means she hasn't managed to get to many industry events IRL yet – although she has enjoyed the resulting boom in popularity for outdoor activities. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle, and will talk at length about them to anyone who'll listen.